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Thought for the Day: Miracles As Basis For Emuna -- Or Not -- Or Maybe

In 1983, David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty appear to disappear.  Everyone who was there and who saw the televised presentation indeed saw the grand lady disappear and then re-appear.  We even saw planes flying across the sky and not disappearing from view when they flew behind where the statue should have been.  Very impressive.

Yet, as far as I know, not a single one of us entertained the thought for even a moment that David Seth Kotkin (his real name) had actually made the statue disappear.  Everyone's comment was, "Wow!  I wonder how he did that!?"  If you are interested enough, you can google "copperfield statue of liberty disappear" and you'll get some thoughts on the topic.  Mr. Copperfield himself, of course, has not endorsed any of the explanations nor offered his own.

People sometimes say, "If I had been in Mitzrayim and seen all those miracles myself, my emuna would surely be stronger.  Being so far removed makes it much harder."  The hagada Matnas Chaim (R' Matisyahu Salomon) asserts that view is mistaken; in fact, the proximity would have actually decreased the impact of the miracles.

First of all, magic (not just illusion and sleight of hand) actually existed in the ancient world, and Harvard/Yale/Oxford of magic was Mitrayim.  Paroh, in fact, dismissed the the original miracles (turning staff into snake, water into blood) as ho-hum just more magic; carrying coals to Newcastle.  No more impressed by the "miracles" (which Paroh and everyone else dismissed as magic), than we are now a days by "magic" (which we dismiss as "tricks and illusions).  By the way, that is precisely why the miracles were played out there and why Paroh's magicians were given the ability to mimic the first two miracles with their own magic.  HaShem wanted everyone in future generations to know that these miracles had been verified as authentic by the top magicians and sorcerers in the locale where the most sophisticated magic and sorcery was performed.  These people also had the most to lose by failing in their mission to prove it was just magic; and fail they did.

Moreover, we have the much richer picture (provided by Chazal) of every dimension of the miracles than any one person there could have experienced.  Take frogs.  One frog came out of the Nile and with every hit dozens and hundreds of more frogs were belched out.  (Think about that the next time you are angry and striking out... are you really helping your case?)  That details was only witnessed by those standing at he river.  The punishments of the frogs began with Paroh in his palace.  Imagine hundreds and thousands of frogs hopping up the main road from the Nile to the palace -- not a single one turning aside.  Then from the palace out to the next tier of leadership, and so on.  That must have made a big impression; but again, only if you were on that road.  Then, as the Zohar tells us, the frogs gained entry even into sealed marble rooms by announcing to the marble floors, "Open up!  We are here to do the Will of the Creator."  No one actually saw that, but we have all that and more as part of our m'sora.

Still, if you want to see a real, live miracle... look around; oseh ma'aseh b'reishis each and every moment.


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